The Federal Government of Nigeria has been called upon to immediately ban single-use plastic. The ban should, however, take effect in 2024 as opposed to the current 2028 date as contained in the proposed National Policy on Plastic Waste Management.
This position forms part of resolutions arrived at the Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives (GAIA) Nigeria Members workshop on “Civil Society Organisations’ Engagement with National and International Plastic Policy Processes” held in Lagos from February 13 to 14, 2023.
The hybrid forum, which drew national and international stakeholders from the value chain of plastic policy processes, suggested that the ban should start with styrofoam, microbeads, carrier bags, plastic spoons, straws, and disposable cups as, according to the participants, they have no economic value (recycling) potential.
They urged government to urgently raise a National Plastic Treaty Steering Committee (NSC) that they said should act to provide guidance and oversee the process.
But they asked government to avoid the adoption of Waste to Energy Technologies such as municipal waste Incinerators and chemical recycling facilities, which they describe as “false solutions”.
“They enable the unsustainable consumption of resources, contribute to climate change, release a cocktail of noxious substances that pose hazards to public health, and diverts funds from cheaper, sustainable zero-waste solutions,” stated the participants, even as they called on all national and state plastic policies to incorporate zero waste principles, taking into account an entire lifecycle approach to plastic management and non-recyclable materials.
While underlining the need for a nationwide campaign and the capacity development of policymakers on the toxicity of plastic within the plastic value chain in Nigeria, the forum called on government to declare a state of emergency on plastic production and its chemical constituent transparency.
They also demanded that all efforts by the public, private and civil societies to be geared towards a zero-waste economy.
Members of GAIA Nigeria include SRADev Nigeria, Centre for Earth Works (CFEW), Green Knowledge Foundation (GKF), Pan African Vision for the Environment (PAVE), Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Community Action Against Plastic Waste (CAPws), Sustainable Environmental Development Initiative (SEDI), Policy Alert, the Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF), and the Lekeh Development Foundation (LDF).
The objectives of the workshop were to: connect the various GAIA Nigeria members in the country; exchange knowledge on zero waste and incinerator alternatives; and crystallise ideas on the way forward as Nigeria plays a pivotal role in Africa’s waste management practices.
During the extensive deliberations at the workshop, the following observations were made:
- The challenge of plastic waste is an increasing global and national concern, with its attendant public and environmental health implications.
- Whereas waste reduction is key to having zero waste, this concept is not yet fully mainstreamed into national and state waste policy processes.
- Plastic is mainly carbon and chemical based however, there is a huge knowledge gap in understanding the toxic chemical components in Nigeria. These hazardous substances are easily transferred into the food chain and other environmental media.
- During the last Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC), the Nigerian representation was not formidable.
- There is a paucity of information and data on the volume and chemical constituent of plastic in the Nigerian market.
- There is a plastic waste regulation ongoing; however, the existing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework is weak and incapable of addressing the current plastic waste management challenges.
- The National Association of Scraps and Waste Pickers Association exists at an informal level, they require recognition and integration in the waste management sector.
- The Lagos Recyclers Association is a formidable association in the waste management sector. Members of the association are engaged in the value chain of waste management.
- The advent of Pakam software by LAWMA advocates for waste sorting from the source at the household level.
- Africa is seeing the increasing emergence of waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration projects. WTE is frequently presented to municipalities as a silver bullet solution to their waste problems.
- Waste generation is intrinsically linked to climate change and there is a lack of urgency from African leaders on sustainable ways to manage plastic and organic waste. Evidence has shown that Green House Gases (GHG) emissions will dramatically increase if plastic production continues as projected and waste is burned.
- The involvement of waste pickers in the waste management sector is an effective and inclusive approach to addressing climate change in Africa.
- The informal waste sector is responsible for up to 50% of waste collection and 45% of recycling in low-income countries like Nigeria. The informal waste sector in this case includes waste pickers, collectors, recyclers and aggregators.